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Dolphin finds way through Chiquita Lock

By Staff | May 12, 2015

There were some anxious moments and it didn’t seem to want to leave, but the dolphin that got itself stuck behind the Chiquita Lock got itself out, without any of the hoopla that surrounded it getting itself penned up in the first place.

According to Paul Pratt, supervisor of environmental recreation for the city of Cape Coral, the animal was down by the lock early Sunday morning April 26, trying to get out.

“The dolphin was there and the lock operator saw him. He opened the gate and the dolphin went through and into the ocean,” Pratt said.

A thorough search of the area shortly thereafter confirmed there was no dolphin.

On April 4, the dolphin got trapped behind the lock. Pratt said it could have been because it was chasing a fish and ended up on the other side of the lock.

Being the big fish in the small pond, the dolphin had the run of the place, eating whatever it wanted, Pratt theorized.

This could have been a reason that when marine mammal specialists with NOAA Fisheries and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission attempted to free the animal on April 17, they had no success.

Had the dolphin not escaped, Blair Mase, a member of the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, said the next step was going to be to herd it like a steer in a round-up.

“We have seen herding tools to try to encourage it to go through. If that didn’t work, we would have had to do the capture,” Mase said. “Thankfully we didn’t have to do anything.”

“It was a big event here. We were all involved trying to get it to move, but it was quicker than us,” Pratt said.

Mase said there were fewer distractions in the water with nobody trying to flush it out. She also said the tide and the way the water was flowing made it easier to escape.

Pratt said that eventually the food source dried up and the dolphin decided to leave to find other food, so it left, only to return three days later to try to get back in, but this time the gates didn’t open.

NOAA was concerned that if the dolphin stayed much longer, its health would have been in danger because the salinity level of the water would have dropped as the rainy season approached.

“Thankfully, we had the time and it was dry so the salinity didn’t drop too low. It’s when you have the summer rain pattern that the salinity drops,” Mase said. “I would have eventually taken a toll on the dolphin.”